Web Analytics
  • Background Image

    UFCW Blog

July 26, 2006

Emergency Petition Assails OSHA

(Washington, DC) —On July 26, 2006, two affiliate unions of the Change to Win federation — the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters — began petitioning the Department of Labor (DOL) to immediately issue an Emergency Temporary Standard to stop the continued risk of diacetyl exposure to workers. In 2002 and 2003, OSHA’s own scientists studying diacetyl unsuccessfully urged their leaders to take broader action to protect workers. There are currently no OSHA standards requiring exposures to be controlled.

Diacetyl is a hazardous chemical that has been connected to a potentially fatal lung disease that has been experienced by food industry workers across the nation.  There have been dozens of cases of what has become known as “popcorn workers lung,” or bronchiolitis obliterans—a severe, disabling, and often-fatal lung disease experienced by factory workers who produce or handle diacetyl.

“Three workers have died and hundreds of others seriously injured,” said Jackie Nowell, UFCW Safety & Health Director. “It’s time for action. We will not let food processing workers continue to be the canaries in the coal mine while waiting for the industry to regulate itself.”

More than 8,000 workers are employed in the flavorings production industry and may be exposed to the dangers of diacetyl and other similar chemicals. Tens of thousands of food processing workers are involved in the production of popcorn, pastries, frozen foods, candies and even dog food that use these chemicals.  It is not clear whether consumers are at risk from exposure to diacetyl but certainly the workers who deal with high concentrations of the flavoring chemical are at risk of developing serious and irreversible lung damage.

The unions’ petition is accompanied by a letter from forty-two of the nation’s leading occupational safety scientists, including a former OSHA director, five former top officials from OSHA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Health and Human Services, who all agree that there is more than enough evidence for OSHA to regulate.

“”Study after study have shown that breathing artificial butter flavor destroys workers lungs. We know how to prevent this terrible disease but OSHA refuses to act”” said Dr. David Michaels of the Project on Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy at the George Washington University School of Public Health.

The UFCW and Teamsters filed the petition for an Emergency Temporary Standard with the DOL to require employers to control airborne exposure to diacetyl and ensure that all employees who are exposed to a certain airborne level of the chemical are provided with air purifying respirators. The safety of these workers would be additionally monitored through medical surveillance and regular consultations.

The petition also demands that OSHA immediately issue a bulletin to all employers and employees potentially exposed to diacetyl outlining the dangers of the chemical.  OSHA is being asked to conduct inspections and begin rule-making proceedings to establish a permanent standard that will put an end to this tragic epidemic and protect workers from exposure to all flavorings.

“The science is clear.  Now it is time for the Department of Labor to employ their regulatory mandate and protect the public,” said Lamont Byrd, Teamster Safety & Health Director. “Such illnesses and fatalities are avoidable and therefore, inexcusable.  An Emergency Standard is necessary to prevent the suffering and death of the additional workers who will get sick during the time it would take for OSHA to set a Permanent Standard.”

-30-

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union’s 1.4 million members work in America’s supermarkets, meatpacking and food processing plants.  Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents more than 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States and Canada.  Both unions are founding members of the Change to Win federation.  www.changetowin.org

For more information and studies about Popcorn Workers Lung Disease, go to www.DefendingScience.org

 

 

July 20, 2006

JUDGE APPLIES CODE OF UNIVERSAL IRRESPONSIBILITY TO RIP HEALTH CARE COVERAGE FROM MARYLANDAL-MART WORKERS

(Washington, DC) — In a cynical catch 22 decision U.S. District Court Judge J. Frederick Motz determined that Maryland state government could not require companies operating in the state to provide adequate health care coverage for employees because federal law trumped Maryland’s Fair Share Health Care Act passed last winter.

The act required companies with 10,000 or more employees to spend at least 8 percent on employee health care or pay the difference in taxes.

Motz’s decision follows bizarre logic.  Essentially it says because Wal-Mart acts uniformly irresponsibly nationwide by failing to provide adequate heath care for employees, states cannot enact legislation to require companies to meet certain responsible employee health care standards.

The losers in Motz’s decision are Maryland Wal-Mart workers—since Wal-Mart is the only large company that wouldn’t have been in compliance with the legislation.

Clearly, for Motz to conclude that the legislation would hurt Wal-Mart because it would have amounted to the company doing extra paper work in Maryland is more than bizarre and his decision should be appealed and overturned.

Motz’s decision puts the interests of the world’s largest retailer over the needs of Maryland citizens like Cynthia Murray who has worked for Wal-Mart for five years and still can’t afford the Wal-Mart health care plan.  Wal-Mart’s irresponsible corporate agenda shifts medical treatment costs to taxpayers and responsible corporations and further strains America’s failing health care system.

June 28, 2006

WAL-MART

Despite multiple headlines in October 2005 which read “”Wal-Mart Urges Congress to Raise the Minimum Wage,”” Wal-Mart announced today it does not support raising the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour.

According to an article in this morning’s Roll Call, Lee Culpepper said Wal-Mart’s CEO Lee Scott’s statement was ‘misinterpreted,’ and that ‘Scott was not calling for Congress to raise the minimum wage.’

“”Wal-Mart’s flip flop on the minimum wage is a cynical about-face which hurts America’s working families,”” said Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com. “”This is hypocrisy at its worst and the American people are the ones that will pay the price,”” continued Blank.

In this morning’s article, Lee Culpepper insisted, “”I think what he (Mr. Scott) said was clear.”” Mr. Culpepper is right. Mr. Scott’s statement was clear. He said the minimum wage was ‘out of date with the times’ and therefore should be raised.

Here is what Mr. Scott said in October 2005, “”The U.S. minimum wage of $5.15 an hour has not been raised in nearly a decade and we believe it is out of date with the times…while it is unusual for us to take a public position on a public policy issue of this kind, we simply believe it is time for Congress to take a responsible look at the minimum wage and other legislation that may help working families.””

Blank continued, “”Wal-Mart’s flip-flop proves the company’s publicity stunts are nothing more than a sham. Wal-Mart will say anything, even lie about its position on the minimum wage, in order to try and salvage its declining public image.””

—————————————————————————————————

Critics: Wal-Mart Flip-Flopped

Roll Call
June 28, 2006
By Tory Newmyer

Last October, Wal-Mart chief executive Lee Scott made waves by urging Congress to consider raising the federal minimum wage – something many retailers had long opposed.

He noted that the store’s own customers are “”struggling to get by,”” then added that “”while it is unusual for us to take a public position on a public policy issue of this kind, we simply believe it is time for Congress to take a responsible look at the minimum wage and other legislation that may help working families.””

The declaration came as part of a broader push by the low-cost retailer to put a friendlier face on its often troubled corporate image.

But now, with both chambers of Congress mulling hikes to the federal pay standard, Wal-Mart’s critics are charging that the company has abandoned Scott’s pledge to support a higher wage. They say that after reaping good public relations from Scott’s statement last fall, Wal-Mart has cynically dumped the issue, even as major trade groups it belongs to, primarily the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Retail Industry Leaders Association, help lead the fight against a higher minimum wage.

“”They did this for PR reasons, and then the true colors come out when the talk no longer meets up with that action. In this case, it’s pretty obvious,”” said Chris Kofinis, spokesman for Wake Up Wal-Mart, a group that’s critical of the company’s practices.

Wal-Mart officials acknowledge, and several Congressional aides confirm, that the retail giant is sitting out the debate on the minimum wage increase. But the company disputes the notion that the move amounts to an about-face from the position Scott represented last fall.

Instead, Lee Culpepper, the company’s top lobbyist in Washington, D.C., said the chief executive’s statement was misinterpreted. Scott was not calling for Congress to raise the minimum wage, Culpepper said – he simply was asking lawmakers to consider the issue.

“”We haven’t said anything more or less,”” Culpepper said on Tuesday. “”I think what he said was clear. He said Congress should take a look at it. If reporters want to report differently from that, I can’t speak to that.””

Culpepper said the company’s lobbyists have communicated Wal-Mart’s position on the issue to its trade groups.

“”We’ve just made them aware that we’ve encouraged Congress to take a look at an increase in the minimum wage,”” he said. But he said the company has not gone so far as to ask the trade groups not to lobby on the issue, leaving it up to them “”to determine their association position.””

To Wal-Mart’s critics, the company’s inaction, combined with the robust opposition to a wage hike thrown up by trade groups it belongs to, add up to a backdoor push by the nation’s largest employer to stifle a higher pay standard.

Wake Up Wal-Mart, a group primarily funded by labor groups, last week challenged the company to endorse raising the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour, after plans put forward by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), and then to lobby in support of the change.

With any such outcome facing long odds, the company’s detractors are trying to tell the story of what they call Wal-Mart’s “”Potomac two-step”” on Capitol Hill.

“”We want to hold Lee Scott to his word,”” said Nu Wexler, spokesman for Wal-Mart Watch, another labor-funded group targeting the company.

Tom Kiley, a spokesman for House Education and the Workforce ranking member Miller, said Democrats are disappointed with Wal-Mart’s absence from the debate.

“”At the time [of Scott’s statement], we welcomed that,”” he said. “”Since then, we haven’t heard from them at all. That’s unfortunate, obviously.””

This sparring comes as the company, expanding into urban areas dominated in Congress by Democrats, has stepped up its outreach to members of the minority party.

Wal-Mart in recent years has directed an increasing portion of its political donations to Democrats, giving them nearly 30 percent of their political action committee dollars so far this cycle. That’s still just a fraction of what the company gives to Republicans, but it’s up from the minuscule 2 percent a decade ago, according to figures available from PoliticalMoneyLine.com.

Scott, the chief executive, huddled with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in February, and top Wal-Mart officials met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus last spring.

But Republicans have remained the company’s most stalwart defenders on tax, health care and labor issues, among other things. And this summer, debate over a minimum wage increase has taken on a highly partisan tone. While most GOPers argue bumping up the pay standard would hurt small businesses, Democrats counter that the current wage, untouched in a decade, traps millions below the poverty line.

The minority party is rallying around the issue as an antidote to flag-burning, gay marriage and estate tax debates stoked by Republicans to rile their own base for the upcoming elections.

Last week, eight Senate Republicans joined 43 Democrats and an Independent in supporting a wage hike, but the votes fell short of the 60 required to clear its passage. Senate Democrats are vowing to keep the issue front and center, with Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) now tying the matter to a Congressional pay increase.

On the House side, Democrats are trying to attach a minimum wage increase to spending bills. After successfully adding it to the Labor-HHS appropriations bill, House Republican leaders pulled the bill from the floor schedule. House GOP leaders are signaling they will not allow a floor vote on the minimum wage this year, and it is unclear how that standoff will be resolved.

In addition, a flurry of minimum-wage initiatives may end up on ballots nationwide, designed both for their ability to improve Democratic voter turnout as well as for the goal of improving pay for low-income workers.

For his part, Wal-Mart lobbyist Culpepper said he remains available to explain Wal-Mart’s position on the wage issue.

“”One of our key missions is to meet with Members on Capitol Hill to correct the record about what our critics have said about us,”” he said.

June 27, 2006

ARKANSAS KROGER WORKERS STAND UP FOR HEALTH CARE

(Little Rock, Ark.) – Facing pressure from Kroger, Arkansas supermarket workers stood together to secure a new union contract that protects affordable health care for workers and their families.  A majority of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 2008 Kroger members voted to accept a new contract Sunday evening.   The agreement came after eleven straight hours of bargaining, through which members were able to avoid a potential strike.

UFCW Local 2008 members expressed their satisfaction with the new four-year contract, which locks in quality, affordable health care with minimal co-pays beginning in 2009.   The new agreement expands some additional health care benefits for workers and secures the financial health of the joint labor-management health care trust fund.  Workers will receive wage increases of $1.25 over the term of the contract and equalizes wage scales.  Members in the retail unit ratified the contract by 80 percent, and meat unit members by over 68 percent.

Charles Lee, UFCW Local 2008 President, said Sunday, “We achieved more at the table by coordinating our bargaining with other UFCW locals in our region, including Houston Local 455, Dallas Local 540 and Memphis Local 1529.  Our members stuck together and stayed involved in the process.  They deserve all the credit for making gains without a work stoppage.”

Approximately 2,500 UFCW Local 2008 members in and around Little Rock, Arkansas are affected by the new contract.

June 8, 2006

LARRY JOHNSTON TAKES MONEY AND RUNS, LEAVING WORKERS IN THE LURCH

(Washington, DC) – Albertsons Supermarket CEO Larry Johnston and his management team ran the national grocery chain into the ground and then sold off the remains–crippling communities and leaving workers’ lives in turmoil in the process.   They deserve to suffer the same fate as the workers they’ve put out of jobs.  So why are they receiving multimillion dollar compensation packages?

Apparently, it’s the American way.   After all, it’s not just Albertsons—CEO pay is skyrocketing across all industries. In 1960, the average CEO made 41 times more than the average worker.  By 2004, the average CEO was making 431 times that of the average worker! And much of this money goes to CEOs whose poor performance is driving their companies, and their workers, into financial ruin.

The $17.7 billion sale of Albertsons to Minnesota grocer SuperValu, drug store chain CVS Corp. and a group of private investors led by Cerberus Capital Management, is the latest example of corporate greed gone haywire.   The deal provides multimillion dollar “golden parachute” packages to the former Albertsons’ executives.  In addition to CEO Larry Johnston, four other former executives received eight-figure compensation packages.

A “golden parachute” is a term for the clause in executives’ contracts that provide special compensation packages in case they lose their employment through an acquisition or a merger.   The Albertsons board approved the compensation packages, and has repeatedly refused to discuss the details of executive compensation.

And while Albertsons’ former executives coast on their golden parachutes, their workers are being put out of work.   On Tuesday, Albertsons announced that it is closing 37 stores in Northern California — about one-fifth of its total Northern California stores.

Workers are being left out in the cold while Larry Johnston and his cohorts enjoy their multi-million dollar reward packages:

  • Johnston, Albertsons’ president, chairman and chief executive officer: $105.5 million.
  • Robert Dunst, executive vice president of technology and supply chain and the chief technology officer: $16.1 million.
  • Paul Gannon, executive vice president for marketing and food operations: $15.5 million.
  • John Sims, executive vice president and general counsel: $15.2 million.
  • Felicia Thornton, executive vice president and chief financial officer: $17.2 million.

Albertsons first agreed to sell the company to Supervalu, CVS, and the investor realty group in January.  Albertsons operates around 2500 stores in 37 states, and employs about 86,200 UFCW members in its various stores who will be affected by the sale.

“Is this the kind America we want – one that rewards CEOs for doing a bad job and leaving workers foot the bill? Albertsons workers deserve better.  We will continue to fight to protect supermarket workers from corporate greed run amok,” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen.

The UFCW is America’s neighborhood union, representing 1.4 million members in the supermarket, food processing, meatpacking and other industries.  UFCW is a member of the Change to Win Federation of unions.

June 5, 2006

WAKEUPWALMART.COM RUNS A FULL-PAGE AD WITH AN OPEN LETTER TO SHAREHOLDERS STATING

Bentonville, AR – Today, WakeUpWalMart.com, America’s campaign to change Wal-Mart, released a letter to Wal-Mart’s shareholders entitled, “”Wal-Mart Can Do Better.”” The letter will be handed out to shareholders at Wal-Mart’s annual shareholder meeting and will run in a statewide, full page ad in the Arkansas Democratic Gazette.

The “”Wal-Mart Can Do Better”” letter reminds shareholders of Sam Walton’s 10 rules for success. Rule #2 on Sam’s list was to value your associates. The letter states, “”Sadly, Wal-Mart’s current management has abandoned Sam’s vision and forgotten Sam’s rule #2 – value your associates.””

In the last few months, Wal-Mart’s current management has decided to dramatically slash workers’ hours, cut over 200,000 employees from full-time to part-time, leave 54% of Wal-Mart’s workers without company health care, not to adopt a “”zero tolerance policy”” on child labor or address the fact that 1.6 million female employees are suing Wal-Mart for gender discrimination.

“”Rather than value Wal-Mart’s employees or reflect the best of Sam Walton’s vision, Wal-Mart’s current leadership has decided to invest in right-wing war rooms and make store changes that are destroying worker morale and putting Wal-Mart’s public image at risk,”” said Paul Blank, campaign director, WakeUpWalMart.com.

The letter calls on Wal-Mart’s shareholders to join with WakeUpWalMart.com and join the movement to change Wal-Mart into a better business “”on behalf of its employees, its shareholders and the American people.””

The letter states, “”What we are asking for – paying 1.3 million employees a living wage, providing affordable health care, and creating a safe and just work environment – is not only the right thing to do, but will make Wal-Mart a more successful company.””

The full text of the letter is below and is available at www.WakeUpWalMart.com.

“”WAL-MART CAN DO BETTER””

Share your profits with all your associates, and treat them as partners. In turn, they will treat you as a partner, and together you will all perform beyond your wildest expectations.
Rule #2, Sam Walton’s 10 Rules for Success

Dear Wal-Mart Shareholders,

One of Sam Walton’s guiding principles that made Wal-Mart a success was to value the company’s associates. Sam Walton believed Wal-Mart’s success would rise and fall based on how well, or poorly, Wal-Mart treated its workers and their families. Sadly, Wal-Mart’s current management has abandoned Sam’s vision and forgotten Sam’s rule #2 – value your associates.

The truth is the American people and their elected representatives have a hard time understanding why Wal-Mart, with $11.2 billion in annual profits, has a record which fails to reflect the best of America’s, and Sam’s, values.

We believe, and we think Sam Walton would agree, “”Wal-Mart Can Do Better.””

Wal-Mart has an incredible opportunity to “”seize the moment”” and pursue real change on behalf of its employees, its shareholders and the American people. What we are asking for – paying 1.3 million employees a living wage, providing affordable health care, and creating a safe and just work environment – is not only the right thing to do, but will make Wal-Mart a more successful company.

Just as Sam Walton understood, large profitable corporations, like Wal-Mart, have an important social responsibility and economic interest to not only be as good and great as they can be, but to be as good and great as their size and wealth affords.

In that spirit, we’re calling on all Wal-Mart shareholders to join with us at WakeUpWalMart.com in our national movement to change Wal-Mart and change America for the better.

We hope you will join with us.

Sincerely,

WakeUpWalMart.com

May 26, 2006

NEW EVIDENCE SHOWS WAL-MART WORKING CLOSELY WITH RIGHT WING ATTACK GROUP


GROUP CALLS ON WAL-MART TO FIRE BOB MCADAM AND LEE CULPEPPER AND END RELATIONSHIP WITH RIGHT WING ATTACK DOG, RICK BERMAN

Washington, D.C. – WakeUpWalMart.com, America’s campaign to change Wal-Mart, has uncovered a close and working relationship between high-ranking senior Wal-Mart executives, Bob McAdam and Lee Culpepper, and right-wing radical Rick Berman.

Earlier this year, Rick Berman, a well-known right-wing radical and defender of mercury poisoning, drunk driving and Big Tobacco, launched a campaign attacking hard-working union members. At the time of Berman’s launch, Wal-Mart spokesman, Sarah Clark, publicly denied any involvement or connection between Wal-Mart and Berman’s group, the Center for Union Facts. According to the Los Angeles Times, Clark said Wal-Mart had “”never heard”” of Berman.

Now, Wal-Mart publicly admits it has not only heard of Berman, but has been working with him. The Detroit Free Press reports, “”Wal-Mart said it has a relationship in which it exchanges union information with Berman, the group’s head.”” [Detroit Free Press, 5/24/06

In addition, an investigation by WakeUpWalMart.com confirms that two senior Wal-Mart officials, Bob McAdam and Lee Culpepper, have worked closely with Berman on “”special projects”” that have related to defending Big Tobacco, defending mercury poisoning, and other right-wing causes.

For example, Bob McAdam worked with Phillip Morris at the Tobacco Institute during the same period of time that Phillip Morris contributed $900,000 to Berman’s pro-tobacco campaign. Lee Culpepper worked at the National Restaurant Association. The NRA’s members contributed to Berman’s pro-mercury poisoning campaign. In fact, Lee Culpepper, while working at the National Restaurant Association described his relationship with Berman in these glowing terms, “”I’ve worked with Rick for years, and indeed he is a lightning rod. People have strong feelings about him, but he helps the industry.””

“”Under the leadership of two new senior officials, Wal-Mart has turned to the radical right-wing to try and salvage its declining public image,”” said Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com.

Blank continued, “”The American people will be deeply disturbed to learn Wal-Mart has developed such a close relationship with a right-wing fanatic like Rick Berman.

It appears Bob McAdam, best known as Big Tobacco’s liar-in-chief, has created a culture of lies and deception at Wal-Mart that threatens the company’s credibility with the media, consumers and the American people. Since Bob McAdam joined the company, Wal-Mart has misled the public on its health care statistics, lied on its banking application, and falsely claimed it didn’t know it was hiring illegal workers. Lee Culpepper’s relationship with Berman is equally reprehensible.

America must wonder why Wal-Mart wants to be associated with three individuals who have spent their careers lobbying against the public interest including defending mercury poisoning, drunk driving, and big tobacco.

Unless Wal-Mart wants to be forever associated with these abhorrent causes, Wal-Mart needs to immediately fire its right-wing attack dogs Bob McAdam and Lee Culpepper, end its disgusting association with Rick Berman’s group, and issue an apology to all of the hard-working families demonized by Mr. Berman.””

May 26, 2006

WAKEUPWALMART.COM EXPOSES WAL-MART’S NEW HEALTH CARE PLAN FOR PART-TIME WORKERS


DOCUMENTS EXPOSE WAL-MART’S SECRET PLAN TO CUT WORKERS’ HOURS, SHIFT TO A MAJORITY PART-TIME WORKFORCE, AND CUT BENEFITS FOR FULL-TIME WORKERS “”TRANSITIONED”” TO PART-TIME

Washington D.C. – Today, WakeUpWalMart.com, America’s campaign to change Wal-Mart, released copies of Wal-Mart’s new health care benefits plan for current part-time employees and full-time employees “”transitioned”” to part-time. The health care documents were given to the group by Wal-Mart employees concerned about the terrible effects that Wal-Mart’s new policies, in particular the drastic transition from full-time to part-time, are having on employee morale, customer service and store performance.

The first document, a 7-page booklet, titled “”My Benefits: New Peak Time Benefits: Making a Difference for You,”” details the specific changes to Wal-Mart’s health care benefits which the company announced last month. The second document is a memo from Wal-Mart’s “”administrative committee”” to all “”full and peak-time hourly associates,”” titled a “”Summary of Material Modifications to Associates’ Health and Welfare Plan.””

Both documents were given to employees as part of a special enrollment period which runs from May 15-26, 2006. The special enrollment period, however, is not open to all Wal-Mart associates. Only associates who are part-time and have more than 1 year of service but less than 2 years of service (part-timers with more than 2 years of service are only eligible if they enroll their dependent) and full-time employees who were just ‘transitioned’ to part-time status, are eligible to enroll.

“”Based on these new documents, either Wal-Mart falsely claimed it would offer its low cost plan to 50% of its Associates, or Wal-Mart has ‘transitioned’ many more workers to part-time than has been reported publicly. Either way, Wal-Mart’s rhetoric doesn’t match reality, and Wal-Mart workers are paying way too high a price,”” said Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com.

Based on the two documents, it is obvious Wal-Mart’s “”new health care changes”” will do little to expand health care coverage for many of its 1.3 million employees. Rather, Wal-Mart’s health care changes are clearly structured to cut health care costs and minimize the public relations disaster from slashing over 200,000 full-time jobs and replacing or transitioning them with low paid part-time workers.

According to a JP Morgan report issued in January 2006, as well as the infamous internal health care memo authored by Wal-Mart Executive Vice President Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart publicly states it intends to shift hundreds of thousands of full-time workers to part-time status. In the two health care documents, Wal-Mart coldly refers to this shift as a “”transition”” and now describes part-time workers as “”peak-time”” employees.

Under the new health care changes, all ‘transitioned’ employees lose most of their benefits, including dental, life insurance and disability immediately, and will lose their health care benefit after one year. In addition, part-time Associates are unable to enroll their spouses. The lack of spousal coverage is consistent with Wal-Mart’s desire to cut health care costs by decreasing spousal coverage. As Chambers states in the memo, “”spouses are by far the most expensive plan members to cover.””

Unfortunately, Wal-Mart’s new health care plans continue to remain unaffordable for the average Wal-Mart employee. Wal-Mart’s most affordable health care option, the Value Plan, has a $3,000 deductible for family coverage and several other deductibles for prescription drug coverage and hospital procedures. Based on all of the premiums and deductibles in the so-called ‘Value’ plan, a part-time Wal-Mart employee could have to pay up to 58% of his/her salary for an individual plan and up to 93% for family coverage.

Most disturbingly, newly transitioned employees who take advantage of this special enrollment will lose any money they have already spent on their deductible and will once again have to pay the full $3,000 deductible.

“”For the sake of Wal-Mart’s workers, their families, and the American taxpayer, we call on Lee Scott and Wal-Mart to propose real health care changes that don’t dangerously discriminate against single, uninsured part-time workers and exclude health care coverage for spouses. Wal-Mart’s plan to expand health care coverage to employees while making it more unaffordable through lower pay and less hours is deceptive and a national disgrace,”” added Blank.

Based on the two leaked health care documents, Wal-Mart workers will face significant restrictions under the new health care changes, including:

1) Only uninsured part-time Wal-Mart workers, who also insure their dependents, are eligible to enroll during this special enrollment period.

  • “”If you are a peak-time hourly Associate who has been employed by Wal-Mart for more than two years and are not currently enrolled in any medical coverage option offered by the AHWP, you may enroll yourself in any of the available peak time medical coverage options (except HSA Qualified or HSA Qualified Performance plans), but only if you enroll your dependent children.”” (Memo: Summary of Material Modifications to Associates Health and Welfare Plan; p. 2)

2) Spouses of part-time associates will not be eligible during this enrollment period.

  • “”Your spouse is not eligible for Medical coverage.”” (My Benefits: New Peak Time Benefits Making a Difference for You: page 3)

3) Former full-time workers, now reduced to part-time workers, will lose an array of additional benefits.

  • “”Dental, Optional Life Insurance, Company-Paid Life Insurance, Dependent Life Insurance, Accidental Death and Dismemberment, Short-term Disability, Short-term Disability Plus, and Long-Term Disability – will stop at the end of the pay period in which you transition.”” (My Benefits: New Peak Time Benefits Making a Difference for You: page 4)

4) Former full-time Wal-Mart workers, now reduced to part-time workers, who change plans during this “”Special Enrollment”” period will lose credit for any money they have already spent against their deductible. Therefore, a worker could have to pay as much as $3,000 in deductibles twice.

  • “”If you switch Medical plans, or if you change your deductible during the Special Enrollment or within 60 days due to your transition, your annual deductible will start over. Amounts already incurred toward your annual deductible will not carry over to your new plan option or new deductible.”” (My Benefits: New Peak Time Benefits Making a Difference for You: page 4)

5) Wal-Mart made no changes to the cost of the deductible for family or individual coverage on any plans. Deductibles on Wal-Mart’s most affordable plan are as high as $3,000 for family coverage and $1,000 for individual coverage.

  • Copies of the two Wal-Mart health care documents describing these health care changes are available for download at www.WakeUpWalMart.com.
May 12, 2006

Secret Wal-Mart Memo Obtained by WakeUpWalMart.com Exposes Wal-Mart Front Group

Today’s New York Times reports on a ‘secret Wal-Mart memo’ obtained by WakeUpWalMart.com which shows how Wal-Mart is exerting corporate pressure to force suppliers to join a right-wing front group bought and paid for by Wal-Mart.

Unbelievably, though, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, Working Families for Wal-Mart, more accurately described as ‘Wal-Mart for Wal-Mart,’ still claims that it is “”autonomous.”” But, the truth is the group is 100% controlled by Wal-Mart and run out of the same office as Wal-Mart’s war room. Even ‘Wal-Mart for Wal-Mart’ steering committee member Martha Montoya, when asked if the organization had received money from anyone other than Wal-Mart said, “”No, not that I know of.””

“”This just exposes what a sham Wal-Mart’s publicity stunts have become. Wal-Mart has become so desperate it is even willing to cross the line and intimidate its suppliers to try and salvage Wal-Mart’s faltering public image,”” said Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com

The memo, authored by Terry Nelson (the former National Political Director for Bush-Cheney 2004), asks suppliers to join Wal-Mart’s front group because, “”Wal-Mart is under attack, and Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club suppliers have the power to do something about it and help protect their business.””

Unfortunately, Wal-Mart’s memo to suppliers makes no mention of the fact that Wal-Mart’s image is declining because the company pays poverty level wages, provides unaffordable health care, helps ship U.S. jobs overseas, is being sued for discrimination, and continues to get caught for child labor violations.

Rather than address these serious issues, Wal-Mart is now using its own personal right-wing front group to try and deceive the American people. The group, in conjunction with two right-wing firms, The Herald Group and Crosslink Strategies, is running a smoke and mirrors campaign, complete with paid steering committee members and canvassers, to create a false impression that there are people willing to defend the indefensible.

We hope this memo will expose ‘Wal-Mart for Wal-Mart’ for the sham that it is and will begin to force the company to address the real issues in this campaign. Until Wal-Mart changes, WakeUpWalMart.com, on behalf of the American people and its 231,000 real grassroots supporters, will continue to build the largest grassroots campaign to change a corporation in history proving the power we all have to change Wal-Mart and change America for the better.

To download a copy of the memo please visit www.WakeUpWalMart.com.

May 11, 2006

UFCW Applauds Vermont

Washington DC—Basic quality health care should be affordable to all people including families, children, the elderly and the chronically ill—regardless of how much money they make.   Yesterday, this vision became reality for thousands of hardworking Vermonters when, under pressure from state legislators, a broad coalition of health care advocates, and the people of Vermont, the Governor signed the Health Care Affordability Act into law.

America’s Agenda—a grassroots organization working for comprehensive health care reform on both state and federal levels—working together with key in-state partners was the driving force behind the reform legislation.

The law is the most far-reaching health care reform law enacted by any state in nearly thirty years. And it’s a groundbreaking victory for the people of Vermont, who, like many Americans—including 46 million uninsured—are worried about the costs, availability, and quality of health care.

The Vermont law will ensure access to affordable, comprehensive coverage to all uninsured Vermonters, regardless of income—including affordable ongoing treatments for people with chronic illnesses like diabetes or heart disease. Cost containment measures will reduce insurance costs for all Vermonters. The cost-effective, streamlined system makes health the priority, not profits. And the law makes health care possible for everyone, instead of denying care to those most in need.

Health care is a national crisis that demands national attention. But until Capitol Hill commits to leading the way on health care reform, state-by-state initiatives like Vermont’s new law can be a model for other states. UFCW will continue to work with advocates like America’s Agenda to pass initiatives that draw blueprints for reform and create grassroots action networks that can achieve real health care reform at the national level.

–30–

The UFCW represents 1.4 million workers in North America, with nearly 1 million working in grocery stores and 250,000 working in the meatpacking and other food processing industries. UFCW President Joe Hansen sits on the Congressionally mandated Citizen’s Health Care Working Group—a panel tasked with leading a nationwide debate on how to improve our health care system.